ANC food vouchers for the poor lead to angry protests

2014-04-30 00:00

“NO food, no votes,” chanted more than 200 protesters outside the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) offices in the Northdale Civic Centre yesterday morning.

Many lined up since 5 am after apparently being told that the ANC was giving out food vouchers to the poor and unemployed. Those present knew of families in their streets and neighbourhoods who had already received vouchers, and who they claimed were undeserving.

There were angry cries of “corruption”, with allegations of up to five people in one family getting vouchers, cronyism and bribes in handing out the food vouchers, each of which has a face value of R1 350. The crowd called out names and addresses of offending families. The protesters alleged that ANC councillor Rachel Soobiah and Sassa official Clive Govindasamy had given out more than 100 vouchers at the Alpha and Omega Church in Raisethorpe on Friday. Those who went to the church late were told to go to the civic centre yesterday and they were angry that they were being turned away empty handed.

Yesterday the protesters refused to budge. Belinda Naidoo said she had walked more than five kilometres with her granny, father-in-law and three unemployed neighbours, after the ANC had announced over a loud-hailer there would be a meeting in Carnelian Drive and that the ANC helped the poor. They attended the meeting, but vouchers had been handed out to people living in that street by the time they got there. They were then told to go to the civic centre yesterday and so they walked.

Mpume Zulu described a similar situation in the Lotus Park area of Northdale. She alleged that only Satyapal Road residents received vouchers. The protesters were addressed by Sassa officials and ANC senior councillor Manilall Inderjith, who said there was no such thing as food vouchers for votes. Nor, he said, were vouchers being indiscriminately handed out. He said the Sassa policy was for people to be screened and vouchers given in special circumstances. At this the crowds shouted that those already given the vouchers were not screened.

Eventually it was decided that the meeting would go into the hall, where names would be taken down for the screening process and reports on the allegations of corruption could be submitted for investigation.

A disgruntled resident said they were told they would be given food vouchers worth R960 before the 2011 elections.

“We slept at the civic centre. We did not push and shove, and we got nothing. We are still holding those numbers. This time again, we are too late. They have been giving out vouchers since January. That is why we are shouting ‘no food, no votes’. If the ANC does not want to be accused of giving out food for votes, they must stop handing out food vouchers during election time.”

Soobiah and Govindasamy did not respond to calls from The Witness. Pastor Lee Rajah of the Alpha and Omega Church denied any involvement in the debacle. He said he was approached to use the church as a venue.

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